Fido Stays, "Achoo!" Goes



Cats made Amy Montague miserable for as long as she can remember.

“I would sniff and sneeze and get watery eyes, all the classic allergy symptoms around cats, but sometimes it would take a half day to recover,” says Montague.

Dr. Jeffrey Wald uses a rhinoscopy machine to view a patient’s nasal cavity to check for swelling caused by allergies.

Montague planned her cat-free outings accordingly to avoid symptoms. As a child, it often meant skipping out on sleepovers and play dates if cats were going to be around. Finally, after suffering through seasonal allergies and constant cat avoidance at college, Montague made the decision to work with her allergist, Jeffrey A. Wald, M.D., of Overland Park-based Kansas City Allergy & Asthma Associates, to see if allergy shots could help her deal with her constant avoidance of felines.

Wald conducted an allergy test on Montague and found that she was allergic to cats, so even if a cat was removed from an environment, its dander or saliva could still be present and cause allergy symptoms.

Wald suggested that Montague begin a series of allergy shots in an attempt to lessen her symptoms and reduce her body’s response to environmental allergens, including cats. Montague began going to Kansas City Allergy & Asthma Associates for allergy shots every week, then every two weeks and then once a month for almost four years. At first, Montague felt the frequent office trips were “too much,” but after just six months, she started seeing benefits and knew the repeated trips for treatment were worth it.

“Before I was even done with my shots, I could go places with cats and not have symptoms,” says Montague. “By the time I was done with my shots, I could stay a whole weekend around cats.”

To her surprise and delight, Montague even stayed in the home of a friend to care for a cat for an entire week without symptoms following the completion of her allergy shots.

Pet Allergy Myths & Facts

According to allergist Jeffrey A. Wald, M.D., of Overland Park-based Kansas City Allergy & Asthma Associates, people often have misconceptions about pet allergies. He helped to clear up a few things for us (no shots required).

Fact: Pets Sneeze Too
Humans aren’t the only ones with allergies. Your pet could be allergic to you, says Wald. Pets may be allergic to human dander, just as humans may be allergic to pet dander. Treatment for your pet is available. Ask your veterinarian for more information.

Fact: Hypoallergenic Dogs Are Hype
Just because your dog doesn’t shed as much as another dog doesn’t mean it’s hypoallergenic, says Wald. “People are allergic to dander, which comes from the skin of all mammals, such as dogs,” explains Wald. “They are also allergic to dog saliva.” People may have symptoms with one breed and not another. In order to determine if you are allergic to a specific breed of dog, Wald suggests working with a series of breeders to gauge your sensitivity to one breed versus another before selecting a pet.

Fact: Chic Cats
Cats have one major allergen that is caused in most breeds, clarifies Wald. There is a designer breed of cat that has the allergenic gene deleted from its DNA, but at almost $4,000 per cat, you have to be a pretty devoted cat lover to pay the high price.

Myth: Pets Shouldn’t Be Around Babies
Wald says research has proven that being around a pet at a very young age actually decreases the child’s chance of developing asthma and/or allergies.

“I am just thankful that I can go anywhere without worrying about it now,” says Montague, who now spends her time worrying about a busy 19-month-old boy.

Wald says Montague’s allergy to cats is common. According to Wald, almost 40 to 60 percent of his patients are allergic to major dog or cat allergens, often both. In fact, he worked with a patient who was a tiger trainer who had a common cat allergy. With the help of Wald and a series of allergy shots, the patient was able to continue her gig at the zoo.

“Pets can be a part of your household,” says Wald, who owns two dogs and one cat. “Some people say to get rid of the pet or relegate them to the basement, but I typically don’t recommend that.”

Usually, patients who suspect pet allergies are tested via skin or blood in one of the offices of Kansas City Allergy & Asthma Associates during their first visit. After that, Wald and other physicians work with patients to determine the best methods for treatment.

Wald says allergy shots are an option for people with cat and dog allergies and patients can expect an almost 80 percent reduction in symptoms following the shots.

Before contacting an allergist, Wald recommends treating allergy symptoms to cats or dogs with an antihistamine to determine severity. Common symptoms to dogs or cats may include a runny or stuffy nose, wheezing and itchy, watery eyes.

Similar to Montague’s treatment, allergy shots are often injected once or twice a week initially and then tapered over the next three to five years. Results from the shots typically last for 10 to 30 years after completion, says Wald, adding that results are usually noticeable within six months to a year.

“We try to allow people to live a normal life, and we don’t want anybody to have to get rid of something as special as a pet if they don’t have to,” says Wald.

Contact Kansas City Allergy & Asthma Associates at (913) 491-5501 to schedule an appointment at any of their locations in Overland Park, Olathe or Lee’s Summit. Visit kcallergy.com to learn more.